RICHMOND — The chairman of Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign said Friday that the Republican presidential candidate had “acted like a frat boy, as a lot of guys do.”
Corey A. Stewart, a 2017 contender for Virginia governor, predicted little fallout from the release of a 2005 recording of then-newlywed Trump, in which he brags about groping and aggressively pursuing sex with married women.
“When people voted for Donald Trump, they knew he wasn’t an angel,” Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, told The Washington Post. “They’re looking for someone who is going to defend them, someone who’s going to bring jobs back, someone who’s going to defend their constitutional rights and someone who’s going to make America strong again. They are not concerned that at times, Donald Trump acts like a frat boy. Sometimes he does, but that’s okay. They know he’s not an angel. They know that he can save the country, though.”
“When Bill Clinton did all those horrible things, people still supported him afterward because they know that that is of secondary importance. They want someone who’s going to bring jobs back,” Stewart said. “They’re not concerned about whether he acted like a frat boy, as a lot of guys do.”
Early Saturday, Stewart clarified that he expects some Trump supporters to be bothered by the candidate’s remarks — but not enough to change their votes.
“Obviously people are going to be bothered by his comments, but I don’t think it will make a difference in how people vote,” he said via text message.
But Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, a rival for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, blasted Trump.
Gillespie, a White House counselor in the George W. Bush administration, has always been cool to Trump, saying little more than that he would vote for the Republican standard-bearer. Until now, he has avoided weighing in on various Trump controversies.
“Donald Trump’s recorded comments are incredibly offensive and demeaning,” Gillespie wrote in a text message to The Post. “All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”
And Virginia GOP chairman John Whitbeck also criticized Trump.
“Women should never be the subject of comments like this. Ever,” Whitbeck texted.
Throughout Trump’s tumultuous campaign, the Democratic Party of Virginia has pressed prominent Republicans to take a stand on Trump whenever he made waves. But with the exception of Stewart, most have kept mum.
“Is this enough for Virginia Republicans to finally pull their support?” read a Democratic Party news release issued Friday, after The Post revealed the audio.
A spokesman for Rep. Robert J. Wittman (R-Va.), another GOP contender, said the congressman “does not condone the objectification of women under any circumstances.”
State Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), who is also planning to run for governor, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, so far the only Democrat running to succeed term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), weighed in.
“As a husband and a father, I am appalled when women are disparaged, disrespected, or objectified,” Northam said in a written statement. “Donald Trump has shown us who he really is and that he is unfit to be President of the United States.”
Stewart’s defense of Trump in the face of controversy is not unprecedented.
Amid an uproar over Trump’s comments about the judge of Mexican descent presiding over a Trump University fraud case in the summer, Stewart offered his full-throated support. Stewart wrote on Facebook in June that if any illegal immigrants showed up to protest a Trump appearance in Richmond, “we’re going to kick their asses out of the country.”
Stewart has said Virginians who are fed up with establishment politics will be drawn to the presidential candidate — and to his own campaign for governor.